Johnson’s Last Days

He’s spinning it out isn’t he? A potent brew of hubris, ego and exceptionalism have sustained Boris Johnson through the train-wreck of his time in office, a period that as we look back makes poor Theresa May’s look truly ‘strong and stable’.

I mean he’s not doing it on his own. There are only seventeen Tory MPs that have had the guts or sense to put a letter in to the 1922 Committee, the arcane constitutionally incoherent process by which we are governed.

As the No 10 rats flee the ship the regime change looks less and less orderly and more and more like a dash for the exits. By Friday Elena Narozanski, Boris Johnson’s special adviser on women and equalities, was the latest to resign, though you have to wonder what she was doing in that post in the first place.

Narozanski’s departure followed the resignation of four key No 10 officials on Thursday: policy chief, Munira Mirza; chief of staff, Dan Rosenfield; the PM’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds; and director of communications, Jack Doyle. Mirza abruptly resigned on Thursday afternoon after Johnson again declined to apologise for attempting to smear the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, over the case of the paedophile Jimmy Savile.

Munira Mirza in particular is a blow for Johnson. She has been a close advisor for years. She has an ‘interesting past’. As Bob from Brockley revealed on Bella in 2019:

“This week it was announced that Munira Mirza would be joining new prime minister Boris Johnson’s team as head of Number 10’s policy unit. Mirza, mis-identifed by the Independent as “an academic at King’s College London” (her actual job there is running their “cultural strategy”), was Johnson’s Deputy Mayor for Culture and Education during his City Hall tenure. Last month, the new crop of Brexit Party MEPs taking up their well-paid if “stupid” jobs in Brussels included Claire Foxprofessional BBC talking head with a reputation as a contrarian libertarian Regular readers will know what Mirza and Fox have in common: they are both long-term members of the network that emerged out of the Revolutionary Communist Party and its magazine Living Marxism (LM). I’ve written before about the LM/RCP network, best known today for its web magazine Spiked, and this post draws together some of that material given the party’s importance in our current, Brexit political moment.”

It’s confusing I know, but the shorthand is that the (supposed/not really) far-left libertarians went all round the political spectrum and met with the (yes/really) far-right libertarians and found they had much in common. In this sense Mirza’s extraordinary rise to power, and her recent descent marks the end of a period where the Brexit Crisis threw up allegiances and collaborations by some of the darkest forces in England’s political underworld.

Boris Johnson and advisers in 2008 – Munira Mirza, Sir Simon Milton, Kit Malthouse, Richard Barnes and Ian Clement. Evening Standard

This may be the end of the Revolutionary Conservative period. As government is hauled down (again) in Northern Ireland we are in a loop. The Unionist parties in Northern Ireland are acutely aware of their own precarious position but seem unable to process logical thought. Having been pivotal in manufacturing Brexit they have no idea how to cope with its inevitable consequences. Their latest actions are simply constitutional self-mutilation.

Britain is being destroyed by the people who identify as its protectors and champions. This is both strange and hilarious.

Back to the rats.

While Rishi Sunak is now wobbling with treacherous intent, some of the Tories know deep down that the prospects of a Hedge-Fund multi-millionaire administering the ‘cost of living’ cuts that are coming down may not be a survivable experience.

In Britain crisis mount on crisis and the idea that THIS was the steady-state, the rock that we should cling to in 2014 is beyond parody.

Britain in 2022 is like living in an abandoned building with collapsing floorboards and ceilings caving-in while being forced to pretend that this is completely normal.

Such is the nature of the current predicament a number of fantasies have to be maintained. The first is that England/Britain has been under the thumb of the terrible EU, an institution that has been holding us back from our manifold destiny. The second is that – once released from this capture ‘we ‘ will be triumphant (once more) – Sunny Uplands beckon twinkling on the horizon. This both projects forward and evokes an imagined past. Within and parallel to these delusions there are internal fantasies. One of which is that the north part of Britain (aka Scotland) is innately and forever impoverished and sustained only by the benevolence of the southern part of Britain (aka England). This set of relations is as the result of a Glorious Union lasting hundreds of years which has to be described in semi-mythical terms. Nobody can explain the reason for these relations but is is just an accepted fact. Scotland is therefore both burden and beneficiary. It’s eternal bankruptcy and deficiency is the direct consequence of the Union for which it should be eternally grateful. Finally another internal fantasy is that we have common bonds and cultures that are immutable, and that to suggest otherwise is some kind of treason or ‘othering’. Any expression of difference is intolerable.

And yet, all of this true but why are we not fleeing the Union with as much speed and fervour as Johnson’s SPADS and advisers?

One reason is outlined by James Foley in a piece for Conter this week (‘The Scottish Ideology‘). In it he challenges the Scottish Government’s failing on poverty, green jobs and self rule and writes:

“Sturgeonism is unimaginable without these rebellious energies. Yet her governing philosophy is, formally, the opposite. It is rooted in the professional-managerial class, a group who trade on radical pretensions but invariably emerge as crusaders for the status quo. While they might favour a well-designed governance agenda for “engaging communities”, their aims are anti-populist and counter-majoritarian: harm-reduction, consensus-building, top-down behaviour modification. They are terrified by any political mobilisation that is not well-policed, NGO-led and corporate sponsored.

Holyrood’s hypocrisies would be laughable without these class compromises. Yet those who should hold government accountable – on class, climate, and hell, even on race and gender – are either compromised by their unionist baggage or dependent on the wheels of patronage. Everyone looks to Holyrood for national leadership which it cannot provide. Accountability is non-existent. The worst thing about Scotland’s grievances with Westminster is that many of them are well-founded in fact. And that fact of Westminster’s “badness” means we easily ignore the meagreness of our own accomplishments.”

All of this seems true. Yet it is also true that, almost £600m is being spent each year on policies related to reserved matters, according to the Scottish Government.

We live ruled by two governments, one we elect and one we cannot elect. The first has not enough powers and not enough ideological direction, the other has all of the powers but is driven by forces we barely understand. As the period of Revolutionary Conservatism comes to an end we must change the dynamic, change the narrative and force ourselves into the story.



Comments (11)

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  1. 220206 says:

    “We live ruled by two governments, one we elect and one we cannot elect.”

    What about local government? Doesn’t that make three?

    And isn’t local government the only government we actually elect? Council leaders are elected by the elected members of those Councils; both the Prime Minister of the UK government and the First Minister of the Scottish government are appointed by the unelected Queen, albeit on the basis of which party leader can command the votes of a majority of members in the parliament in which s/he sits.

    In respect of their democracy, are the other two governments – the Scottish and the UK governments – really all that different?

    1. Graeme Purves says:


  2. meg says:

    Why was the obvious not obvious…. and yes I keep hoping our Scottish government will pull the rabbit out of the hat… belief is a wonderful thing….but I imagine a different rabbit perhaps one that exists only in my imagination.I hope for a future whose criteria is the happiness of the people

  3. J Galt says:

    Just because it’s an arsehole doing the “smearing” does not necessarily mean that the subject doesn’t deserve to be “smeared”!

  4. Graeme Purves says:

    I think James Foley’s analysis of Sturgeonist inertia is farly sound, but the picture is, perhaps, more complicated than he allows. Scotland’s professional-managerial class is by no means monolithic in its conservatism. Significant parts of it would be up for transformative change if a clear lead were to be given. We need only look back to the role that class played in creating the Welfare State and post-war reconstruction. What is remarkable about Nicola Sturgeon is that she has chosen to align herself with the most cautious and conservative elements of the professional-managerial class across the breadth of public policy.

    1. Jim Sansbury says:

      While she may be independence cautious her inertia on independence has been mostly caused by Covid.
      Just witness the uproar every time she has briefly mentioned independence these last couple of years.
      Horrifed pearl clutchers crying “she should be dealing with Covid” (which she did)”not going on about independence”!
      Damned if you do, damned if you dont.

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        My focus was more on the Sturgeon administration’s inertia on public policy. But, of course, contracting the formulation of public policy out to lobbyists and corporate interests is a recipe for inertia.

  5. 220206 says:

    “We live ruled by two governments… The first [i.e. the Scottish government] has not enough powers and not enough ideological direction…”

    …hasn’t enough powers of whom to do what?

    To defend ourselves against tyranny, we must limit the powers any government has to those that are minimally sufficient to ensure the right of everyone who’s subject to its jurisdiction to go her/his own variant way within a framework of only such limits as we need to impose on ourselves to maintain that peaceful and productive order that’s conducive to the best interests of everyone alike. What additional powers, over and above that limit, does the Scottish government need to fulfil this, its purely democratic function?

    And by which/whose ideology is the Scottish government to be directed? And by what confidence trick do you propose to make this particular ideology an expression of the general will of our society rather than an expression of just the particular will of some sectional interest or party within it; that is, an expression of the will of the whole of the Scottish ‘demos’ and not just some part of it?

    1. James Mills says:

      ”I’m not a number , 220206 , I’m a free man ! ”

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        Just so! 🙂

  6. Squigglypen says:

    Easier said than done. Johnson like Alien when blasted out of the spaceship managed to claw its way back and hang on till eventually a nuclear explosion propelled it into space..still alive.You really think those greedy Toleys are going to give up their jobs for the good of the country?They’ll throw everything at it to save the sinking spaceship..platinum queen, St. Camilla( when did that happen?)..loving handouts ( to be paid back of course) Gray report..offstage infinitum.
    Much as I’d like to kick the SNP for some dodgy ideas..we have no other option….the Toleys? ..Labour( who?) We have to thole the SNP to
    achieve independence ..The archaic laws seen in Westminster have been in place for a long time…you don’t clap..but go haw!haw!haw!.. 2 queues for voting in the lobby… no Mc line ( haw haw!)
    I do wish the whole of the SNP had walked out one at a time after Ian had left the chamber…a Spartacus moment…
    I watched the Scotland victory in the Calcutta Cup( well done men) But the only talk I heard after the match from the commentators was how England lost it..not a word about a great comeback by Scotland…that’s what we need ..a great comeback…and hold the fort.

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